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Journal of Arid Land  2013, Vol. 5 Issue (4): 415-427    DOI: 10.1007/s40333-013-0174-y
Research Articles     
Explaining patterns of species dominance in the shrub steppe systems of the Junggar Basin (China) and Great Basin (USA)
1 Department of Natural Resources & Environmental Science, University of Nevada Reno, Reno NV 89557, USA;
2 Department of Geography, University of Nevada Reno, Reno NV 89557, USA;
3 Xinjiang Institute of Ecology and Geography, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Urumqi 830011, China;
4 Department of Agriculture, Nutrition and Veterinary Sciences, 1664 N Virginia Street, Mail Stop 202, University of Nevada Reno, Reno NV 89557, USA
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Abstract  Natural scientists have long recognized that regions with similar climate tend to have similar vegetation. Preliminary observations suggest that shrub steppe communities of the western US and western China may be two such regions with similar annual precipitation, temperature, land use, and vegetation. These cold dry shrub steppes have traditionally been grazed. Despite these similarities, patterns of species dominance are different. Annual species that are rare in China become dominant when introduced to the United States. The objective of this study was to investigate how climate, land use and community structure may explain these patterns of species dominance. Community structure and grazing intensity were measured at 5 sites in each region. This information was combined with a broader review of the literature describing the history of grazing in both basins. Climate was analyzed based on a spatially-gridded, interpolated weather time series (monthly records) and climatological summary (1961–1990 mean conditions) data set from the Climate Research Unit. We found that differences in summer precipitation and winter minimum temperature, land use intensity, and shrub size may all contribute to the dominance of annual species in the Great Basin, particularly Bromus tectorum. In particular, previous work indicates that summer precipitation and winter temperature drive the distribution of Bromus tectorum in the Great Basin. As a result, sites with wet summers and cold springs, similar to the Chinese sites, would not be expected to be dominated by Bromus tectorum. A history of more intense grazing of the Chinese sites, as described in the literature, also is likely to decrease fire frequency, and decreases litter and shrub dominance, all of which have been demonstrated to be important in Bromus tectorum establishment and ultimate dominance. Further research is necessary to determine if other annuals that follow the same pattern of scarcity in the Junggar Basin and dominance in the Great Basin are responding to the same influences.

Key wordssoil water and salt      organic matter      spatial distribution      Manas River watershed     
Received: 03 December 2012      Published: 06 December 2013

The US National Science Founda-tion (1047575) with additional support from the Nevada Agri-cultural Experiment Station and National Science Foundation Cooperative Agreement (EPS-0814372).

Corresponding Authors: Wendy TROWBRIDGE     E-mail:
Cite this article:

Wendy TROWBRIDGE, Thomas ALBRIGHT, Scot FERGUSON, Jun LI, Barry PERRYMAN, Robert S NOWAK. Explaining patterns of species dominance in the shrub steppe systems of the Junggar Basin (China) and Great Basin (USA). Journal of Arid Land, 2013, 5(4): 415-427.

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